WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama encouraged Americans on Thursday to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates and said his administration was rolling out further phases of its plan to address the housing crisis.

Turning his attention to the U.S. economy after finishing his first trip as president to Europe and Iraq, Obama said more people across the United States could save money by refinancing their loans.

The main message that we want to send today is, there are 7 to 9 million people across the country who right now could be taking advantage of lower mortgage rates, he told reporters during a meeting with advisers and a group of people who had taken advantage of the lower rates.

We estimate that the average family can get anywhere from $1,600 to $2,000 a year in savings by taking advantage of these various mortgage programs that have been put in place.

Obama said citizens could check a website, MakingHomeAffordable.gov, to see if they were eligible for mortgage refinancing.

We are in the process of rolling out additional phases to the program, he said, referring to the administration's housing measures.

We are putting in place a loan modification program, working with banks, working with services that will allow other folks who are closer to losing their home (be) in a stronger position in the future.


Meanwhile, the top U.S. housing official said interest rates on typical home loans will continue to fall from their current, record lows.

I think you will see them continue to come down, based on everything that we're doing, but recognize that they've already started to make a big difference, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shawn Donovan said on CNBC.

Obama, who spent part of his trip to Europe working on solutions to the global economic crisis, emphasized that the U.S. problems stemmed from the housing sector.

Obviously one of the triggers of the financial crisis and now the economic crisis that we've suffered is that because in some areas ... housing values got way overheated, in some cases you had a lack of regulation that allowed all sorts of complex financial instruments take advantage of home owners, he said.

We have seen a collapse in the housing market, a precipitous drop in values, and that led to our problems in the financial markets.